A belated Valentine's Day gift for OCSickGirl & everyone else who has messaged me, prodded me, encouraged, and refused to give up on me. I adore you all.

~Ginnie


Chapter 49:

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Better...

"Mm . . . hi."

"Hi."

"What'cha doin'?"

"Coming to say good morning."

"S'not morning yet."

She laughs softly at the pinched up look on his face, and runs her hand through his hair again. "Close enough. Coffee's on. Charlie's up."

He yawns. "Everything okay?"

"I think so, he doesn't seem to be in a rush."

"Hmm."

She giggles as he turns his head back into the pillow. "Not a morning person, huh?"

His eyes stay closed, but his lips quirk up. "I would be, if it were morning. Or if we'd gotten to bed at a half-decent hour."

She smiles and glances at the clock above the television. They only just said goodnight a few hours ago, or at least, they only tried to say goodnight a few hours ago. Bella couldn't seem to shut her mind off, and then just when it seemed she'd finally fallen asleep, Charlie's phone rang again. The low, urgent echo of his voice through the wall kept her up at least another hour.

She'd debated giving up and creeping down to share the sofa bed with Edward, but figured her father wouldn't appreciate that much. Nor did she think she (or Edward) was ready to take that step.

Once the smell of coffee and the sound of a running shower woke her a second time, though, all bets were off.

"I'm sorry for waking you. Were you able to sleep?" she asks.

"A little," he says, yawning again. He rolls from his stomach onto his side and lifts the blankets. "Come here."

Her heart quickens, but she hesitates.

He opens one eye. "Too soon?"

She shakes her head. Above them, her father's footsteps answer for her.

"Charlie?"

She nods, her eyes offering a silent apology. He drops the blanket and pats the space on top of it. She glances briefly toward the ceiling again, but joins him, resting her head on his shoulder and one leg over his. It feels natural. Easy.

"I've missed this," he murmurs, running a hand through her hair.

Bella laughs softly under her breath. "You said that last night. You say it a lot, in fact."

"Do I?"

"Mm-hmm."

"Oh."

They're silent a moment, the cadence of their breathing slow and even. "I've missed it too," she says eventually.

His lips press against her forehead, warm and soft, and so so welcome. She wonders if the list of things she's missed about him will ever end. Moreover, she wonders if it's really been him she's missed, or if it was just intimacy in general she'd been lacking for so long.

Something else to ask my therapist about.

"What are you thinking so hard about down there?"

She blushes. "Nothing."

"Liar, liar, cheeks on fire."

She giggles—a fast, high-pitched giggle that has Edward laughing with her in no time—and hides her face against his arm. "Involuntary response," she mumbles.

He laughs louder and reaches for her waist, squeezing her just above her hip where he knows it will make her shriek. And shriek she does.

Right up until a light clicks on and her father's voice sounds from behind them.

"Good morning, you two."

Edward lets go of her hip in an instant, his laughter dying in an ungraceful snort. Bella finds it harder to stop laughing, and looks over her shoulder with a half-embarrassed, half-jubilant smile. "Oh, hey Dad."

Charlie shifts his weight and settles into his "cop" pose, arms crossed over his chest and expression carefully schooled. "Having fun, are we, daughter?"

"Um, no," Bella says, then realizes her error. "Well, yes, but . . . er—" She looks back at Edward. "Um . . ."

Edward's eyes go wide as if to say, "Don't ask me."

Her father starts to chuckle. "Relax. You aren't teenagers anymore."

Bella blinks and nods. "Yeah, that's um . . . true." She rolls over to face her father.

Charlie holds her gaze for a moment, his lips twisted in amusement, then looks to Edward with a more serious mien. "You sleep okay?"

Bella can feel Edward swallow before he answers. "Yes, sir."

Charlie nods, then tilts his head to one side. "Have any trouble with the house rules?"

"Uh, no, sir."

"What house rules?" Bella asks, just as her father narrows his eyes.

"I'm not sure I like that hesitation, son."

Edward slides away from Bella and sits up. "Sorry. No, there was no problem."

She sits, too, and gives her father an accusing look. "Dad, what house rules?"

He smirks. "That's between me and Edward."

A not-so-delicate scoff escapes her. "Seriously? I thought"—she made quotation marks with her fingers—"we weren't teenagers anymore."

"You aren't, but this is still my house, and you will always be my baby girl."

"Ugh . . . Dad, we hadn't even kissed each other until yesterday."

A sort of chocked cough escapes Edward even as Charlie's eyes widen in surprise, his cheeks turning pink. Bella fights to keep her own face under control, and looks at the floor.

"Sorry . . . it's the truth though."

The awkward silence is broken by a crackle the radio on her father's hip. He reaches for it, and one of Edward's fingers slides over her pinky. She glances at him over her shoulder and gives him a shy smile. He exams her expression for a moment and then links their fingers together, smiling back.

"Well . . ." Charlie says, drawing the word out and clearing his throat. "Why don't the two of you stop making googly eyes at each other and come have a cup of coffee with me real quick? I need to get going soon."

Bella blushes and looks away as Edward starts to chuckle. "Yeah, okay," she says.

Her father holds her gaze for a moment, then nods and turns in the direction of the kitchen with—Bella notes belatedly—his half-amused grin in place once more.

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